Music, flames, and fans filled the Breslin Center on Friday, as the MSU men’s and women’s basketball teams symbolically kicked off their season with the annual Midnight Madness.
“The atmosphere of Midnight Madness is just really fun. Everyone is really excited for the all players to be introduced,” said Jessica Baarck, an MSU sophomore waiting in line with her friends. “When Izzo and Suzy Merchant talk, it’s just really exciting and everyone always has a good time.”
Lines to get into the Breslin Center led out the door, into the parking lot, and out onto the road, as fans anxiously anticipated the 8:30 p.m. start time for the event. The nearly sold-out crowd drew fans excited to get their first look at the Spartan basketball teams, and to get autographs with the coaches and players.
“The best part of Midnight Madness is getting to interact with the players,” said MSU student, Kayla Wilke. “There’s a lot of families and students, and I think that creates a great vibe that makes the event an essential one for any Spartan.”
As the doors opened and fans bursted into Breslin, one of the biggest questions circling was what Tom Izzo would be dressed as. In the past, Izzo had dressed as Iron Man, rode a horse onto the court, and propelled down from the ceiling.
“It’s tough to say,” said MSU Lyman Briggs student Andrew Korneffel. “Last year they were superheroes, but I don’t know what they are going to go as this year.”
But Kayla Wilke had a clever idea.
“He’s going to dress up as Miley Cyrus in her music video for ‘Wrecking Ball,’” she said. “But I think he’ll probably go in a onesie and not actually be naked.”
It was Lupe Izzo, Tom’s wife, who really knew the plans for the evening.
“Every year we try to think about what it is that he can do to top the year before,” said Lupe Izzo. “I mean he’s done so many things, it’s hard to top the previous year.”
The idea that came to fruition wasn’t that of Tom Izzo or a member of his coaching staff, but one of his family members.
“It was actually my sister-in-law who said, well he’s done everything but being shot out of a cannon,” said Lupe Izzo. “I’m pretty nervous about it for sure, but I trust that everything will be fine.”
Everything was indeed fine.
When the time came, it was not Izzo who was shot out of the cannon, but a professional stunt-woman, Jennifer Smith-Schneider. Izzo, his coaches, and the team had switched Izzo out for a stunt double.
The kickoff event also included performances by the cheer and dance teams and friendly scrimmage games for fans. The Izzone was packed, stands were filled to almost capacity and the teams were fired up.
“The hype is great,” added Wilke. “I really am excited to see where Izzo takes the team this season.”
Nathaniel Gaynor is a Multi-Media Journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: David Defever